This month, I decided to include some tips for taking better photos in my newsletter. Here is a copy of that text:

Simple Changes for Improved Shots
We all do it, even me. We’re so excited to get started with our brand new camera that we forget the most important thing: reading the manual. I know all-to-well how easy it can be to feel intimidated by all the jargon in these palm sized books. So, until you find yourself with the extra time/courage and can remember where it is you stashed your manual, here are some simple tips for some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why are my pictures blurry?
Many times, lighting situations are less than ideal when you click that button. Even with your built-in flash turned on, sometimes the dreaded “camera shake” creeps in and ruins your precious photo. Using a flash should, in most situations, remedy this problem. But what can you do when using the flash fails?

Move closer. Using the zoom, is not always the best option. Moving closer helps your flash illuminate your subject more fully, something that your zoom can’t achieve. The “camera shake” phenomenon is much like trying to make your way through a poorly-lit room without sacrificing the bruising of your shins. That’s because a camera lens works much like our eyes do. It needs light to interpret details; without this it gets harder to focus properly and avoid that poorly placed ottoman. Unless you can put a larger flash on your camera (only available for cameras with an external flash mount) your best option is to inch a little closer.

Have you ever noticed that right before you take your photo you see a little light turn on at the front of the camera? Most cameras have this “assistant” to help your lens achieve better focus without fully activating the flash. Just hold the button HALF WAY down while you focus on your subject. This gives your camera a few more seconds to read and interpret the information…much like one would do before plunging into a darkened room.

But how do you make it look professional?
While I’d like to say that my photos are solely the result of 15 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree, the truth is that with just a couple of modifications you can have a more professional looking photo, too.

The easiest trick to implement: Move closer.

Nope, it’s not a typo. This works great for improving your composition as well! Those adorable freckles, the glimmer in your subject’s eyes, that dewy complexion, these are all details better captured from a closer angle. The other advantage is that you will, at the same time, be cutting down on distracting backgrounds or objects in your image.

Composition is what sets most pictures apart. The Rule of Thirds is a basic principle that will make a great deal of difference in your picture quality. It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Basically, it is based on the concept that perfectly centered subjects make for uninteresting shots. This is because it leaves very little to be discovered. A good photo will guide your eyes throughout, delivering the story little-by-little and culminating in visual delight.

You can achieve this by imaging that your image can be split into 9 equal sized boxes, 3 across and 3 down, like tic-tac-toe.

Based on this tip, every time you compose a shot, the main subject of your photo should be located primarily on one of these “third” lines.

Another great and easy tip is to pay attention to the colors that make up your image. If your subject accidentally stepped into an 80′s time-warp and their clothing colors resemble the stylings of the Cosby Show, there is a simple solution: change the image to black and white. Clashing colors can radically affect the quality of an image. If you are unable to guide your subject before they decide on their wardrobe or if, through no fault of their own, the backgrounds clash with your subject, minimizing the distractions is the best way to resolve this issue. The fastest way to do this is to cut out all that color with your camera’s black and white editing option.

Armed with these simple tools you can take more professional quality pictures. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather, blooming flowers, and the simple joy of the great outdoors with a camera by your side! And if you want to share your handy-work with us, feel free to shoot us an email at You may just see yourself featured in an upcoming newsletter issue!
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One of the greatest gifts in life is the gift of giving. As I ponder this, Dave Matthews’ lyrics resound in my head…”to change the world start with one step.”

In truth, that is all that it takes; one step, one effort, one resolve.

In the spirit of “paying it forward“, I’ve decided to join in the fight against cancer by running the Sprint for Life 5K and fundraising to benefit the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

I have been so very fortunate this past year with everything that has unfolded in my life…work, family, friendships, health. I have so much to be thankful for. What better thanks is there than to give of myself and share the bounties I have been blessed with?

Starting today and until May 3rd, 2008, Plum Tree Studios will be donating 10% of net sales to The Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program.

I will be running in memory of lost loved ones, for the lives of those who have been and will be saved, and for the potential that we each have to leave a mark and make a difference, no matter how big or small.
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The New Website

February 17, 2008

WEB The New Website

I am so very excited about the new website! In truth, it launched earlier this month and it has been such a whirlwind. I’ve been meaning to blog all about my experience in setting up, and now the enjoyment of seeing it to fruition…but it’s working so well that two weeks later, I’m just barely getting here.

Firstly, I’d like to thank my good friend Javier Avellan at Schipul for all of his assistance in maximizing the search engine optimization (SEO) for my site. His suggestions have made all the difference in the world in helping folks out there in web-land find my website in the sea of sites available. I’ve learned so much about SEO and search engine marketing. There were many times that I thought my head would explode, but Javier helped me keep things in perspective, broke down the principles very clearly and steered me in the right direction. Schipul is an incredible company, run by a team of creative and caring people who really have your company’s best interest at heart. Based out of Houston, they assist companies all over the globe to maximize their web presence and marketing strategies. Best of all, they are so confident in what they do, that they will even host you at their free monthly seminars, whether you book their services or not. Who does that?

Schipul does.

So why worry about the optimization of your website, you ask? Well, because it can really make or break your business. Do the wrong thing and you can be harder to find on the web than a needle in a haystack. Something I didn’t know, search engines actually punish you for doing the wrong things and launch your website into deep oblivion so nobody even knows you exist. Likewise, do the right thing and they LUV you…putting you at the coveted spots towards the top of the page on search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Paying your way is just not enough anymore, and let’s face it; we don’t all have the deep pockets that the bigger companies have.

One of the coolest examples of SEO is Adobe Acrobat Reader. Did you know that if you search the words “click here” on Google the very first thing that pops up is the Adobe Reader Download page? To the unknowing (like I was) this may seem insignificant, but the reason this happens is that just about everyone who has a link to Adobe on their page also has those two words linked to the download site. Often times the link and the words are one in the same. And poof, just like that, two little words now have a very direct path to the number one information exchange software around. That’s a pretty good formula for success. But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try for yourself and marvel at the results! If you have a business with web presence it behooves you to learn more about SEO and SEM. I am so very glad I did.

Next, I have to give a shout out to my friend Jen Martino at Portfiliositez. Jen is one half of a very creative duo that launched an innovative web design service for photographers and artists last year. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent searching for a company that could provide the tools to build the website that I envisioned WITHOUT costing me my arm and leg, and head and torso! I was so close to booking bludomain, but after researching and seeing the horrible reviews about customer service (they basically take your money and drop you like a hot potato) I was wise enough to skip on their deal. Thankfully, it was right around the time when I wanted to give up that I found Jen and Jamie. They really were a God send. Not only do they have some of the most creative layouts out there, but their customer service is bar none some of the very best I’ve come across. I’ve really put Jen to the test, what with all of my requests to maximize SEO for my site and all. I’ve gotten responses to my questions in the middle of the night sometimes. Even when it really wasn’t her job to help me, Jen went out of her way to do so.

I love these girls and thank them heartily for providing a hugely needed service at an affordable price and with OUSTANDING service. There really is no one else out there who offers what they do. THANK YOU!

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Fun with Graphic Design

January 20, 2008
I’ve been a busy bee lately. The new website is almost done and I figured I should have some nice, new marketing pieces to go along with my schnazzy new image. So today, I got cracking on a new business card design and TWO new marketing pieces to promote Plum Tree’s services.

I figure that a new year = good opportunity to kick things up a notch!

I got some inspiration from things I’ve seen online, TV, and overall current trends. But designing for myself has always been a bit more difficult than when I do it for other people. It’s weird, actually…I tend to question myself sooo much more.

So, I guess my hope is that my new venture into the Blogger community will pay off with some new friends who may want to chime in along with the voice in my head. ;^)

And without further ado…here the pics of my new designs….

KID+PORTRAIT+AD Fun with Graphic Design
EVENTS+AD Fun with Graphic Design
And here’s the new business card. What can I say? I was feeling minimalist by this point.

BLUE+BIZ+CARD+PIC Fun with Graphic Design

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The Old Plum Tree

January 18, 2008
I spent the summer of 1992 in Chile after my family relocated countries for the second time in less than 7 years. One fine day mom, dad, little bro and the family dog waved goodbye alongside me at what was to be our “new” old house.
As everyone knows, thirteen is nothing short of a funny age, plagued by raging hormones, awkwardness and plain old persnickety spunk. I went along cursing the day our house sold and lamenting all the friends I was leaving behind, specially after realizing that THE most important part of my student career (High school) would be spent in a foreign land.
Chile, being on the other side of the equator, offered an additional and particularly awful disadvantage: I would, on top of everything else, be robbed of the oncoming US summer having to wait another three excruciating months for summer to roll around in Chile. As if changing lives wasn’t enough, I now faced another round of cold weather and worst of all, another 3 months re-adjusting, AKA repeating the 8th grade (with a Chilean twist).
When summer finally came, and I had passed the 8th grade for the second time in my life, our family settled on a 100 acre ranch about 12 minutes from the city. Our house was a moderate walk from the river and we were surrounded by apple orchards, wheat fields and other fruit trees.
The old Plum Tree rooted itself behind our house, was great for climbing and was packed with summer fruit. It was a magical place to play and make up stories, sit and draw, or gather an afternoon snack. In fact, it was so plentiful that the ground was often covered with the fruit that had overburdened the tree with its ripened weight. Our family dog, Chipper, took full advantage of this by disappearing every afternoon for a couple of hours, gorging himself with plums (pits and all) and offering the only evidence of his adventures by consequently dragging his tummy back around the house, bursting at the seams.
It’s funny what one views as “the end of the world” during those formative adolescent years. Looking back, despite all of the hardship and readjustment, I have very fond memories of that experience. The old Plum Tree is where I picked up a camera for the very first time. Life was truly different, spent in the outskirts of the city on one of the most beautiful country sides in the world, as opposed to the vast concrete landscapes of major metropolitan life. The old Plum Tree will forever be a symbol of summer, life-long friendships, artful endeavors, childhood games and the joy of the great outdoors.
That, was the best summer of my life. And it’s how I came to realize, that life truly is what you make of it. In short, the old Plum Tree is where life becomes an art.
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